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Paul Groff

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  1. Bill, Another - I hope constructive -perspective... Have you tried getting lessons in an organized way from some teacher? That can really make a difference in how you sound to others, especially if you are learning your first instrument as an adult. Very often, adult beginners are "deaf" to their own mistakes (in attack, volume, tone, and rhythm as well as in the notes) and while they are enjoying their "hobby" their spouses are near suicide. A teacher can give you a perspective on these problems and set you to work on a small, defined project within your ability to perfect, so that others can honestly say "that sounds good!" Also, it seems you bought an as-is instrument on ebay. I just took a look at your excellent photos, and I have to say some of the reeds are in a shocking condition, with evidence of very rough and uneven filing, corners filed off reed tongues, kinks in the high reeds, etc. I doubt anyone could make that instrument sound good without professional replacement of many of its reedtongues. Who did the tuning for you? To all adult beginners - if you enjoy tinkering with playing (or repairing) concertinas, strictly in isolation from others, why not follow your own instincts and have fun as you would in some other hobby. But if it becomes important to you what others think of your music (even if at home), give yourself half a chance and invest in a decent, professionally restored instrument and some lessons. Paul
  2. Hi Bill, I understand where you are coming from, but no one said anything about "expecting" other players to do anything. I suggested "encouraging them to try." Depending on the situations in which you play with others, whether or not they are "sessions," (a term that means very different things to different people), it may or may not be polite to choose a key for a tune that is unfamiliar to some others present. I wouldn't start up "The Boys of Bluehill" in C in a public session where I didn't know anyone, or where there were a lot of beginners present for whom this tune (in D) might be one of their few hard-earned public opportunities to play. I agree with you, that would be a "breach of etiquette." But in a private get-together, or when playing with good players I know can handle unusual keys, or when playing publicly in more of a "gig" setting, with proper consultation and agreement among the players the unusual keys are lovely. Or, of course, for my own practice and enjoyment at home. At times and places, keys and/or pitches that many of us would consider unusual and that you might consider a breach of "session etiquette" are/were actually the norm. Jacky Daly told me that when he grew up, it was all Hohner C/C# ericas played on the inside row so the fiddle players tuned down a half step. I'm sure if a D whistle or higher-pitch wooden flute player came through the area, turns would have had to be taken. The late Tony Crehan used to love playing in C and would organize groups of musicians to play together in that pitch. "C" sessions are not uncommon at piper's gatherings, etc. In my view session etiquette is based on considerateness, negotation, and agreement among the musicians present (or at least among the leaders of the session, if there are such). If it's the kind of session that ebbs and flows and listening is just as important as bashing out the tunes, Jim's suggestion is not out of place. I love to hear a tune I don't play, or don't play in that key or that setting, if it's well done. I am not offended that I can't join in, I just enjoy listening to some great music. Some of the very best sessions I can remember were like that. The tendency I often observe in this country that everyone wants to be playing all the time can lead to some relentlessly bad music, and bad music is another kind of "breach of etiquette!" I know from your other writing here that you love Irish music, and I'm sure you didn't intend to advocate the above, but some do seem to value "the lowest common denominator," where everyone can meet in mediocrity, over music of beautiful quality that may at SOME times in the session not include everyone. I think it's because some people just want to be playing, and they get bored listening to others play. This is their loss but when they try to enforce those priorities, I would again say it's yet another "breach of etiquette." Paul
  3. Doug, The LH thumb button is the traditional place to find the middle C, draw, on a C/G anglo with 31 or more keys. This is often a useful note for melody or harmony, and usually unavailable elsewhere in that direction. The press note on that button is much more variable. F (natural) above middle C is very common, a second middle C (making the button a "drone," although one whose sound is interrupted when changing bellows direction), Bb, Eb, and other possibilities are not uncommon. Roger Digby, among others, has strongly advocated for the subdominant (F on a C/G) as the most useful press note for the LH thumb, for his style of playing. I like that and use it, but also like the C drone. From your question I infer that you use the C/G to play in D major, maybe Irish dance music or other sorts of "fiddle tunes." But if you want to create a middle D drone effect for this purpose, with practice you can learn to alternate between the little finger (press on the G row) and the ring finger (draw on the C row) to use the D notes already available in the main rows of the instrument. If you learn this technique well you will find you can easily add (or subtract) a D drone at will to melodies and harmonies, changing finger and button to keep the D going when the bellows must change to accommodate what else you are playing. This technique has the advantage that you can do it on almost any C/G you encounter, even a 20 key. Like the "drone button," when present, the sound of this note will have to start and stop at least instantaneously when changing bellows direction, but that effect can be minimized with practice, and it can also be used to good musical effect. Some have criticized the use of "drones" in concertina playing because (unlike some pipes) the concertina drone effect is often as loud as the melody notes. Again, with practice and good musicianship this apparent disadvantage can be turned to good musical effect, by first playing the melody without drones to "get it into the listener's ears," by doubling the melody in octaves, etc. Remember, many other traditional instruments use drones that are as loud, or louder than the melody, and that may start and stop in a "breathing" manner. But if the concertina drone and related effects as used by Willie Mullally, Mrs. O'Dwyer, John Kelly, and many other players is too "wild sounding" for you, by all means avoid it! Some anglos have a 3rd middle D at the bottom of the G row, draw, and this can be even easier to use in alternation with the G row press D as each can be played with the little finger, leaving the rest of your fingers free for melody and other harmonies. But rather than having 3 copies of that D note I prefer to put a low A draw in that position (see Chris Ghent's question in another recent topic). Finally, never forget the naturalness and beauty of playing a C/G anglo in its "home keys" of C, F, G, and related modes. It is a beginner's mistake to assume that Irish tunes (for example) most familiarly played in D must be played, or even sound best, in that key. "D tunes" in C, "G tunes" in F, etc. can sound great on a C/G as the best players know. Even if you play often with others you might want to encourage them to try this with you. C whistles are cheap, guitarists have capos, fiddles have tuning pegs.... Paul P. S. On the other hand, of course you can put in a D "drone" in any concertina of traditional construction with a LH thumb button, and that is the kind of thing I have done for my retail customers on occasion, even experimenting with small, quiet brass reeds for a muted effect. For entry-level instruments this kind of custom work would probably not be economical. The main point of my answer above is that I enjoy the way the fine traditional anglos were laid out and I, like others before me, have found ways to use the traditional features to create sounds I like. Today's players with two or even thirty years' experience in a relatively recent revival should never be too quick to assume they know better than the best players and makers of the nineteenth century who established (albeit variable) "standard" layouts. (edited to correct "draw" to "press" in the second paragraph and to add some stuff)
  4. Theo, I agree that having the instrument in hand would be best, and that even then we might not be able to identify the maker. But more food for thought: The late Frank Butler wrote in correspondence to me (see also his letter in Concertina & Squeezebox, Vol II (Autumn, 1984), p. 24) that Nickolds "used to make concertinas and put Wheatstone labels on them, retained from the days when he actually worked for Wheatstone. [John] Crabb parted from Nickolds because of this fraudulent practice." This is Frank's perspective on the demise of the "Nickolds and Crabb" partnership that (along with Jones) claimed to have invented the anglo-german concertina. Possibly Geoff Crabb will have another perspective on this story. Several other makers made instruments like the one you describe, and of course a Wheatstone label could have been added to any of them. But if Vickers was last to work on the instrument and retail it, my intuition would be that they would not have created a forgery themselves, or knowingly sold one. I agree with Stephen that they seem to have maintained high standards and to have enjoyed a good reputation. Certainly some of the instruments I have seen with their labels were top-class and one semi-miniature I own retains a beautiful unequal temperament; whether this tuning was their work I can't say. I have always wondered if there was some relationship between the Vickers music (and bicycle?) shop and Albert Vickers of the "Vickers Gun," whose factory was in Crayford, Kent, in the 1880s. Stephen or Wes? Paul
  5. Hi Jim, Yes, I meant to include Lachenal also. I have seen the LH thumb button setup you mention for 45 key Jeffries but my 45 key (and also my 50 key) have separate chambers and reed-pairs for that button; it doesn't just form a "duplicate touch" for the chamber accessed by another button. I think Chris Timson's 45 key was described by him to have the LH thumb button functioning in the way that you describe for yours also. Paul
  6. Hello, Absolutely, yes, Jeffries, Crabb and Wheatstone made anglos with more than 40 buttons. Our contributor Alan Day has raved about his "extended layout" Linota. I have seen Lachenal and Crabb anglos also with extended keyboards. I have a Jeffries anglo with 50 keys in Ab/Eb, unrestored, and soon should be receiving a lovely original tuning Bb/F 45 key anglo back from re-bellowing. Both were bought by me completely unrestored and in old pitch and temperament, and the reedpans and reeds are dead original Jeffries work, made as anglos. Some Jeffries anglos with more than 38 keys, being played today, have been converted from duets but the chamber sizes and the reworking of the low reeds usually give these away. I guess an exception would be if a duet went back to the Jeffries shop back when that shop was still operating, and new reedpans were fitted to the instrument at that time; then it would be hard to tell today. I think Stephen Chambers has mentioned that during that time (as well as since) conversions in both directions (J. duet to anglo and anglo to J. duet) were made, and very old, very professional jobs might be harder to detect. You can't evaluate a concertina from a photograph or from the description of a seller who is not REALLY knowledgeable about concertinas (and also very honest, preferably with a business reputation to maintain). Pretend I wrote that 20 times. A lot of the recent grief over ebay sales could be avoided if potential buyers realized this. With this in mind, if I had in hand the instrument that started this thread I would look closer to see if the ends are aluminum rather than the more typical nickel silver. I would also look inside to see if it had a Lachenal, Crabb, or Wheatstone serial number. The fretwork is not one of the most common types, but does look familiar to me. Whoever made it clearly put time and craftsmanship toward the goal of making a high quality concertina. Paul
  7. Hello, As it happens, I know the exact instrument pictured in that photo (made of course by Juergen Suttner), and confirm that it is not for sale by its owner. Further evidence that the auction may be fraudulent. Of course (although it is a lovely concertina) the instrument pictured does not match the description in the auction listing. Paul
  8. Do you know "The Frog" by Hilaire Belloc? I don't know if it would violate copyright to reprint it, but the text is easily found via google. Paul
  9. Sandy, The auction I mentioned was over a year ago. I would have had no complaint if, at that time, ebay had responded as you say they did recently. The point is that, in an auction that "completes," the high bidder "wins" the auction, the underbidder (or the reserve) effectively sets the price level, and thus an insincere underbidder (who bids up the auction and then retracts) can unfairly raise the winning bid price if all his/her bids are not removed. This did not occur in the auction I mentioned, despite my repeated complaints. Possibly there has been a policy change; if so, that may be evidence of responsiveness (if not to me as an individual) on the part of ebay. Paul
  10. Sandy, I found your arguments well-taken and appreciate your point of view. However I am even more sympathetic to the positions of those who, like me, have found ebay slow (to say the least) to put into effect even its own policies against abuse of its system. Just one example from my experience. I put in a proxy bid. Another bidder (possibly in league with the seller or just malicious) repeatedly bid up, and finally over my amount, then retracted for the "reason" that he had been "ripped off on a previous auction." Thus the final price for me as "winning bidder" was my maximum bid. This is "improper bid retraction" by ebay's own definition, and possibly also "shill bidding," but ebay refused to cancel the auction despite the fact that my final auction price was much higher than it would have been without the actions of the malicious and/or shill bidder. Yes, I did repeatedly complain, to no avail, and ebay in fact advised the seller to take action against me should I not pay. I did finally pay the inflated price to maintain my feedback rating, but consider this very bad service on the part of ebay. Of course, the seller and ebay both benefited from this abuse, at my expense. By the way, to those who have complained about "sniping," this is why sniping can be necessary - to prevent insincere bidders from running your bid to the maximum. At least sniping is legal under ebay's policies. Paul
  11. Hello all, I had no advance knowledge of this auction, do not know who the seller is, and suspect he or she is not legitimate. I think the description was taken from comments posted by Bob DeVellis (years ago), an American who bought his concertina in England from Chris and who has showed it to me on a few occasions. If he were to sell it, using the description he previously posted under his name, I suspect he would be more forthcoming about his identity. If someone who bought that instrument from Bob were re-selling it, using his description, again I would expect less anonymity. I'll take a look through this site to see if I am right, and edit this post if necessary. In the meantime, I would advise scepticism. Paul Edited to correct the spelling of Bob's name (sorry, buddy!). If my memory serves, the description was on Bob's concertina pages (see the "links" section of this site, alphabetized under "Bob"), but the link appears to be broken now.
  12. Dear Phil, Yes, these German concertinas are put together very differently than your Wheatstone! They were designed to go together with much less of the costly fitting work (e.g., a flat plate of 10 reeds rests on a flat "comb" of air chambers, compared to the exact fit of each reed to its slot in your Wheatstone). The actions, bellows, etc. were also made to work for a while, but not to be as beautifully repairable as the London makes. Still, with all the compromises of materials and workmanship, a good German concertina can be fun to play when well-restored. I have a particular interest in recording the original tunings of these, and would make an offer for yours if you wanted to sell it. Sadly, it won't bring the money a good Wheatstone would. Most often these are obtained in the way you received yours. The reeds that sound the highest pitches (smallest reeds) often do not have reed leathers (equivalent to the "valves" glued to the reedpan of your Wheatstone). Actually, your Wheatstone may not have valves, either, for the highest notes. Remember that an individual reed tongue (vibrator) in either instrument will only sound in one air direction (when air is moving in such a way that it hits the reed tongue, then passes through the slot below it). The valves or reed leathers function to prevent air being lost around the adjacent reedtongue associated with the same chamber, that is not sounding. Lots of air can be lost around the big lower reeds, that are sprung up fairly high from the reed plate or reedframe, but little is lost around the highest-pitched reeds. In fact, sometimes the highest reeds will not sound properly if there is a valve for their adjacent reed. Of course, another reason for lack of reed leathers on your "Swan" is that some may have fallen off! Paul
  13. Richard, I want to echo the praise of Stephen and others. The photos and interviews in the book alone made it interesting to any concertinist. There were also some repair hints (although I think the description of which reeds sound on press vs. draw might need to be clarified). And please do reissue the LP on cd, either with the book or separately! Really great work. Paul
  14. Al, Thanks for the kind words. When I am able to get the right concertinas for restoration, I do have some ideas about how to make them as good as they can be. Most of the playability of these "upgraded" Lachenals is due, however, to the basic design of a good Lachenal, which can be better than many realize, and to the work of some of your fellow countrymen who have been willing to help me. I am not a concertina maker so the bellows and riveted actions on these were made by skilled, craftsman makers. Jim's instrument has bellows and action by C. and R. Dipper, and I believe the instrument Greg heard has bellows and action made a few years ago, at my request, by John Connor. A good Lachenal anglo can sound more solid, and can give more rapid-fire response on certain types of ornaments executed with the buttons, when given a well-made, riveted action. I also have my own ideas about reedwork, based on my personal preferences (for tone, tuning, and response), and usually do this myself, including replacing any reeds that are not up to standard. Then there are a few other tricks ... The resulting instruments would not please everyone, I'm sure (neither would some more famous ones), but will be very good value for tone, playability, and reliability, even if costing much more than typically "restored" Lachenals. I call them "hotrods;" like hotrod cars, they can work better than than the stock models when new. By contrast, many "restored" Lachenals being played today (especially those that were hastily retuned, maybe in the days when they sold for a tenth of today's price) seem to sound and play much worse than they probably did when new. Caveat emptor! Paul
  15. Hello all, I have seen 30-key Mayfair anglos with metal ends and one (possibly like the one that started this thread) with laminated wood (plywood) ends in a varnished mahogany-colored finish, with "f-hole" cut-outs. The last played very well with a nice mellow tone (if a bit "boxed in sounding," relative to a wooden ended Lachenal), and was bought on time payments by a person who stopped paying after one month (well over a year ago). He has admitted to me in an email that he owes me the money, but I have not yet taken legal action. If there is a possibility that it is the SAME wooden ended Mayfair, I would appreciate hearing from Triwookie. Paul (paul@groffsmusic.com)
  16. Wes and Stephen, Many thanks for the insights into the relationships and activities of the Wheatstone/Chidley/Wards etc. I wonder if anyone has seen correspondence between Cornelius Ward and his concertina-making relatives, or other evidence that they might have cooperated, brainstormed, shared information or even used some of the same craftsmen as outworkers? As has been mentioned, Cornelius seems to have been inventive and clever in his field, and might have had much to offer the fledgling concertina trade. Among other accomplishments he is credited by Rockstro with building the intricate keyed flute designed by Colonel Rebsomen, that could be played with the right hand only. I have seen a couple of concertinas with oval, white-enameled metal plaques marked "Ward, Liverpool." If memory serves they were mahogany 20 key anglos made by Lachenal. I think they did have the initials "R. J.;" if this information might be interesting I can track down the current owner of one of these and provide the full text of the plaque. Paul
  17. Mark, and all, I am a big fan of trying every kind of music on every instrument. But there is a big difference between what YOU may choose to do and insisting that some other person (or organization, or tradition, or bunch of people who hang out & play together) accept it. It's up to those rare musicians who are both brilliant and unconventional to show by example that great Irish music (or great music of any type) can be played on an instrument that is unusual in that tradition. Even then, it is reasonable to expect that organizations devoted to traditional forms of music, that are trying to preserve a continuity with the past, will be conservative and may take years, or generations, to promote the "newcomer instrument" as traditional for the purposes of youth education, etc. Yes, the anglo has had these generations of use within the Irish dance tradition. If you choose to play Irish dance music on an instrument that is not generally considered to have a long tradition of great players on whom you can model your style, your task in learning to play "traditionally" is harder. Certainly not impossible. But the burden of proof is on you, for sure. Yes, over many decades, the anglo has had such remarkable players in Ireland, respected and often beloved by the best players of other traditional instruments. If I had been trying to work up a style of digeridoo playing for use in baroque chamber music, it might irritate me that the local groups of serious baroque musicians paid me scant respect. But it would not surprise me, and I would not blame them for a situation of my own making. Good luck to the adventurous and best wishes, Paul
  18. Hello The marriage was mentioned in a short piece on National Public Radio here in Miami, FL. The presenter described the bride as a "commoner" -- a consultant for Microsoft, who met her new husband (? by the time I post this) in a bar during the Sydney Olympics. Paul
  19. Wes, Please forgive a thread drift: Is the Cornelius Ward shown in your diagram, as related to both the Wheatstones and the Chidleys, the same who was an eminent London flute maker (with Monzani & Hill and independently)? There is a great observation about boxwood attributed to the flutemaker Ward by Rockstro, that (because of dimensional changes due to change in its water content) this wood is "more fitted for the construction of a hygrometer than of a wind-instrument." Michael Grinter was amused to hear this quote since he actually had a piece of warped boxwood functioning as a hygrometer in his flutemaking shop! Those of us who love the tone of a boxwood flute must take great pains keeping its environment regulated (as with antique concertinas). Lots of the old ones are "banana-ed." Another reference to Ward may be instructive, or at least amusing, to consider when we get into controversies in this forum. It relates to the controversy in the 1840s over the new Boehm system flutes, and the argument made by some that important aspects of his "invention" were plagiarized. After many letters to "The Musical World," this letter to the editor was published in 1843: "I pray you sir, to put a mute On all this noise 'bout Boehm's flute; Your powers arouse To muffle Prowse Nor let old Card Contend with Ward But quash at once the dull dispute." -Embouchure Paul
  20. Hi Frank, A/E is a great anglo key. As you know, if you play it "Irish style" with the fingering normally used for a C/G it will be in tune with a B set of pipes or whistle, for a wonderful low-pitch sound (cf. Jacqueline McCarthy's recordings). If you ever play duet gigs with a guitarist in standard tuning, this will give some great sounds and accompaniment options given the guitar's low E string. If played "G/D" style, it gives the additional brightness you might expect, being a full tone higher - but is not so shrill as a C/G played that way. But (until I had to sell mine) I also used the A/E often for song accompaniment, for playing tunes in the key of A "melodeon style" up and down the A row, and for playing blues in the very bluesy key of E. Of course, on the A/E the key of E can be fingered in many ways (like the key of G on a C/G), giving lots of options for chromatic slurs, dominant sevenths, etc. Great that you are making these available. Paul
  21. Hello all, I don't think anyone on this topic has mentioned the publication in Concertina & Squeezebox (Vol. I, No. 4:20-23, 1983) of a number of tunes collected and transcribed by Rick Ulman from the fiddle and anglo player Searus McDairmid. I don't know Rick, or if he reads and/or posts here, but possibly he could tell us more about the musician and the tunes. He writes that they were collected in "Wormit, in the Fife (County) Scotland, and in Newport-on-Tay" in 1962-66. The complete run of C&S is available from Geo Salley, the publisher, on disc (search this site for address). Paul
  22. Thanks Wes and Jim, In a former life I was a botanist, and in fact I'm thinking of going back to it... Keep in mind that I did not rule out the existence of another piece spelled as premo did. Premo - thank you for the very interesting and unusual documents and websites you keep providing us! Paul
  23. Hello, Could it be a misspelling for "Myosotis?" This is the true scientific name of the genus in the Boraginaceae that includes a number of species commonly called "forget-me-nots" (Myosotis spp., e.g., Myosotis alpestris F. W. Schmidt subsp. asiatica Vestergr., the state flower of my favorite state). I don't have a latin dictionary at hand so I cannot confirm if "Myostosis" is an ancient latin name for a plant in this genus (or for something else). But it might be worth searching "Myosotis" to see if the music can be found under that spelling. BTW, in the floras I consulted the derivation of the genus name "Myosotis" is given as from the Greek "mus" + " otos," meaning "mouse ear;" this is another common name for some Myosotis species. But other, totally unrelated plant species are also called "mouse-ears," which is why we have the scientific names. Paul
  24. Jim Another great story from a man with many of them! Yes, especially when playing in G on a fife (or old system flute), the 4th scale degree is often played sharp (relative to equal temperament) by traditional players. Modern ears might expect a "c natural" but what is produced (often by half-holing or by one of several "forked fingerings") might be "toward a c sharp." A true, equal tempered C natural CAN be made on most of these instruments if desired, but for reasons of simplicity of execution, timbre, or maybe just the "flavor" of the music, the older musicians would seldom do so. Some whistle, flute, and melodeon players actually play a true C# in a tonality based on G in certain situations, giving the "fa mode" (G, A, B, C#, D, E, F#, G). This can sound pretty odd to some modern ears but to me it can sound tangy and strong (e.g. the old 78 of melodeon genius P. J. Conlon playing "The Banks of Newfoundland"). A less extreme example in Irish music is the whistle playing of Micho Russell, RIP, who often used the "one finger" version of "C" (2nd finger, left hand, only) which is very sharp and flavorful. I love playing with Jimmy Hogan, another great Clare whistle player, living in the Boston area, who (like Willy Clancy) uses every shade of C to C# including upward slides in pitch. But actually a sharp fourth can be part of a "standard scale" -- the meantone scales with their very narrow (flat) fifths also, as a corollary, have sharp fourths. I have heard that a talented young musician has been researching the use of such scales by traditional fiddlers. Paul
  25. Dear John, I understand your question and agree it is frustrating not to hear yourself in group playing. We have never met, and I have never heard or tried to play in your session. My comments may not apply at all to your particular concertina, style, hearing, or musical community, and of course I have no interest in gratuitously offending you! But your post reminds me of situations in which I have often found myself as I have tried to learn more about the concertina and about group playing. As a former leader of sessions and the teacher of many adult beginners, I have a particular gut reaction to what you wrote. In a typical "session" with several or many musicians playing at close quarters, a concertina will often sound MUCH quieter to the player than to those adjacent to him or her (or even to others quite a distance away). Some irish pipers have a similar problem, in that the sound is copming out down around their laps, while the fiddles and flutes seem to project the sound much closer to ear level. I have often come up to a session where a concertina (whether played well or poorly) was just blasting out in volume relative to the other instruments, sometimes to the evident discomfort of those sitting near its player, only to have the concertinist confide "can't hear myself in here!" I guess one response to the problem is just to get a still-louder concertina, but this seems sometimes to lead to a sort of "arms race" in communities of musical amateurs, with each trying to get a louder flute, fiddle, etc., and the box player pulling out more stops. A universal problem I suppose of the beginner, the amateur, those who are working hard at home to develop some music that works and are frustrated in public when they don't hear their work as clearly. In my high school years we had some guys in the rock bands that kept turning themselves up. I know it is more likely for concertinists to make mistakes when they don't hear their own instrument but in my view the best solution is to practice until you can play your music flawlessly even if you couldn't hear it, then try to occupy a place in the room (e.g. with a wall at your left) where your sound will reflect back to you the most. As a dealer in concertinas I often hear requests for a concertina that will "cut through" or dominate other instruments. Professionals, band leaders, those who play outside really may need this and it may be best for all if they get this. But be careful what you ask for, because this characteristic of many concertinas (and some concertina players) can be ugly in a social milieu. In my experience a concertina that has a warm and beautiful tone (and this can be difficult to maximize concurrently with volume and responsiveness) is more likely to leave your fellow musicians saying "that concertina music sounds GOOD!" Isn't that a better goal than having them say "you can hear the concertina a mile away" (maybe with a rolling of the eyes) or even "all I could hear in there was that concertina." In an ideal world (that is I admit,, MY notion of an ideal world), group playing would include lots of listening, lots of individuals "sitting out" tunes or underplaying when this improves the quality of all the music (and the fun). Inclusive, sure, but not dragged down to the lowest common denominator by a selfish impulse to be "in the game" all night no matter how roughly you are playing, or to hear yourself even if that makes others less likely to hear themselves. The goal is that the group should enjoy how everyone sounds. Those who don't have many years of practice may find it best to have one or a few tunes practiced to perfection, so they can contribute 5 or 10 minutes of beautiful music that all (even the dedicated, lifelong musicians who rightly have high standards of quality) can HONESTLY enjoy. While playing their "party piece" they will be less likely to be distracted by a bad acoustic environment, and more likely to get a very positive response from all. This is a much less selfish contribution to an evening's music than 3 hours of thoughtlessly "practiced," rough and sloppy playing. You wouldn't serve your friends dish after dish of poorly prepared, incompletely cooked food, or drag them by force out on the water in a leaky, poorly constructed boat you built. Similarly, if you offer your music in public (even in concerted playing with a group), it should be properly prepared, well finished, and robust to the "waves and weather" of the performance environment. So many are impatient to get their music out in public before it and they are ready, and I think this increases the difficulty inherent in playing the concertina where there is a lot of other sound surrounding you, closer to ear level. Again, I understand that YOUR particular problems may only be solved by a louder instrument, but if you can somehow encourage all the rest to listen more (not only to themselves) and for all to play more quietly, and with more concern for quality than for volume, there may be many other benefits in store for all of you. BTW, the instruments made by the Dippers and by Juergen Suttner are miracles of craftsmanship, modern wonders of the world! And they can be played quietly and subtly as well as for "cutting through." With respect, best wishes, and the hope that you won't be annoyed by MY too loud, and certainly imperfect, music if we meet, Paul
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